Helping value artifacts from the Titanic, appraiser Roderick Hardy has been researching a gold chain with gold nuggets. “The only one who would have the audacity to wear it would be Molly Brown,” he speculates. “Everyone else in the upper class would be wearing very refined jewelry.”
Hardy, who lives in Palm Springs and Atlanta, Ga., began his education in fine and decorative arts and artifacts when he was 7 and his parents encouraged him and his sister to collect art. “They realized that we would have very few close friends with as much travel as we had already had [his father was in the Army Air Corps], and they wanted to ground us with something,” he says. He still has his first purchase: a 1590s samurai sword he acquired while living in Japan.
What sorts of things have you collected?
My first collection was Oriental. I sold it before high school. In college, I collected French 18th century furniture and paintings. The third collection was works on paper, including Lichtenstein, Matisse, Picasso, and Braque. Now my only collection is my library: about 8,500 volumes, all nonfiction, primarily reference material.
Why did you stop collecting fine and decorative art and artifacts?
I wanted it all and I couldn’t afford it. And, as an appraiser, I was handling it all day, so that was enough pleasure.
What’s the most valuable collection you’ve appraised?
There was one collection of more than 10,000 pieces of American European fine and decorative art worth more than $100 million. Right now, I’m researching a $35 million Monet for a private sale.
What has been the most difficult item to appraise?
It was not to appraise, but to authenticate a Carrera marble bust for sale in a warehouse. The tag read “Ugly Old Man.” It turned out to be the missing bust of George Washington, one of four versions that had been commissioned by Thomas Jefferson from Giuseppe Ceracchi.
One of your clients is Lockheed Martin. What have you appraised for them?
I was called out to look at a cockpit panel designed by Amelia Earhart. In the design were two radios. Because of the weight issue, she got rid of one of them. If she’d had it, perhaps she could have communicated [on her fateful flight].
You travel the world. Why are you planning to move to the desert full time?
I have been working at this pace since the age of 15. I’m looking forward to minimizing my workload so I can write autobiographically based books and return to my photography.